Woods for outdoor furniture

A manufacturer of outdoor furniture consults the Wood Doctor for help with choosing a species to replace beech. 1998.

by Professor Gene Wengert

I am the Manager of Berkshire Wood Craft in West Springfield, MA. Our product is outdoor furniture. We are currently using beech, mahogany, and white oak. We are having problems with the beech--end checking and splitting on the surface of the various parts. The finishes that we use on the beech is an oil based paint.

We are looking for the best wood to replace use of beech. We are thinking about cypress, cedar, and redwood. We also have questioned the availability of these. Can you give me any words of wisdom?

If I were making outdoor furniture, I would consider Alaska yellow cedar (natural decay resistance) and CCA (green color) treated Southern yellow pine.

Certainly there are other choices, but these two are at the top of my list. It is important to recognize that there are different grades of lumber. So, a No.2 SYP might be too knotty or too warped--you might need a No.1.

White oak is a good choice, but it is heavy and does have a few cracks, from time to time. Both oak and mahogany are expensive. Cypress (only old growth) and eastern or western red cedars are also good choices, but are expensive. Old growth cypress is in short supply; so is eastern red cedar.

Professor Gene Wengert is Extension Specialist in Wood Processing at the Department of Forestry, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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